Death toll rises as partisan politics paralyze Wisconsin’s pandemic response — 10/28/20

A roundup of top news and information about Wisconsin’s response to the coronavirus

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Experts know how to limit the spread of COVID-19: encourage people to wear masks and keep a distance — fundamentals of a pandemic response that have remained unchanged for years. But many Wisconsinites are ignoring the guidance, transforming the state into one of the country’s biggest virus hotspots, Bram Sable-Smith reports for Wisconsin Watch and WPR.

A key ingredient is missing from the state’s COVID-19 response: clear and consistent messaging. But resistance from GOP lawmakers during a presidential election year and legal wrangling are sending mixed signals to residents — thwarting the collective action needed to quell the public health crisis, Sable-Smith reports. Wisconsinites are living and dying with the consequences.

The report comes as the Wisconsin Department of Health Services reported 45 additional COVID-19 deaths on Wednesday, second only to Tuesday’s record death toll of 64.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, meanwhile, reports that Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, “is calling for more testing, faster testing and is considering a second state relief package to help Wisconsin navigate the coronavirus pandemic,” following the Legislature’s months of inaction and resistance detailed in Sable-Smith’s report.

Top Stories

Will Cioci / Wisconsin Watch

An estimated 1,500 protesters, most of them not wearing face masks and many carrying American flags, gathered at the Wisconsin State Capitol on April 24, 2020 for a 90-minute demonstration demanding an end to the shutdown of public spaces and business in Wisconsin aimed at curbing the coronavirus pandemic. Six months later, Wisconsin has become a national COVID-19 hotspot, with deaths and hospitalizations mounting. Public health experts say mixed messaging from state leaders has harmed efforts to encourage Wisconsinites to wear masks and keep a distance to keep the virus from spreading.

How politics paralyzed Wisconsin’s pandemic response — and left families to grieve their lossesWPR/Wisconsin Watch 

While in court to stop mask rules, Robin Vos calls to remove politics from COVID responseMilwaukee Journal Sentinel 

On Wisconsin’s worst day of the pandemic, thousands pack in at West Salem race track for Trump RallyLa Crosse Tribune 

Wisconsin National Guard coronavirus testing sites close early as demand skyrocketsWPR 

As COVID-19 cases surge in Wisconsin, health workers brace for moreWPR 

No. 9 Badgers’ game at Nebraska canceled; 12 members of program, including Paul Chryst, tested positive in past 5 daysWisconsin State Journal 

Election 2020: How to safely cast your ballot Nov. 3Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

State sends antigen tests to hospitals dealing with staffing shortagesFOX 11 News 

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“We have a number of people — a high number of people — who are getting tested and returning to work … We have people working while they are infectious. If you get tested, you should stay home until you get those lab results.”

— Kenosha County Health Director Dr. Jen Freiheit, as quoted by the Kenosha News

Food access trouble?

We know that when classes are virtual, many Wisconsin students and families lose access to food schools provide. And as the school year starts, some meal sites are closing. Share your experience with News414, Wisconsin Watch’s service journalism collaboration with Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service and Outlier Media. Click here for details.

You can also view a list of Milwaukee-area food distribution sites for students here.

Data to note

As Wisconsin fails to control the coronavirus, WisContext offers these visualizations of  the startling trends in infections and deaths. 

Meanwhile, Wisconsin set another record for COVID-19 hospitalizations on Wednesday, with 1,439 patients — up from 1,385 on Tuesday.

Resilient Wisconsin

People helping others and showing resilience during this time of anxiety. Send suggestions by tagging us on social media — @wisconsinwatch — or emailing us:

Socially distanced connection from bridge to hospital room means the world to Neenah couple Appleton Post-Crescent 

Pandemic only boosted Wisconsin’s $7.8 billion outdoor economy Wisconsin State Journal

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